You are here

Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe

The Collision Repair Company's Courtesy Vehicle

Research articles : 

I was sitting at a red light this afternoon watching the approaching traffic. Two vehicles entered the left turn lane on the street to my left, one unremarkable and the other covered in advertising telling me that it was the courtesy vehicle for a well known collision repair company. Both were signaling for the left turn.

I'm guessing that the driver of the second vehicle decided he had made a mistake entering the left turn lane because he swerved out of it over the solid line and overtook the vehicle in front of him, still signaling for his left turn of course! It made me wonder if the collision repair company reserved that courtesy vehicle especially for him. If he always drove like this he might need it often.

Drivers such as this one were always interesting to encounter. Which ticket would I choose to write? Disobey traffic control device for the arrow painted on the lane that told the driver he must turn left? Maybe changing lanes over a solid line? How about failing to signal? They are the traffic officer's equivalent of the proverbial kid in the candy store situation.

Yielding on Left Turns

It's always dangerous when you turn left in an intersection. You have to cross over opposing lanes of traffic which leaves you vulnerable in a crash. It also exposes you to drivers who would never think that they might have to yield and let you turn left.

The rule in B.C. for turning left at an intersection requires that you yield to any opposing traffic in or approaching the intersection so closely that it would be a hazard. Having yielded as required, opposing traffic must now yield to you and allow you to make your left turn.

Making a Left Turn at an Intersection

Research articles : 

This column is dedicated to the middle aged male driver who turned left in the intersection and completed the turn half way into my lane as I approached him and half way into the lane that he was supposed to be using. Was he being inattentive, careless or did he not know any better?

Unless you are using an intersection that allows a left turn from multiple lanes, you approach the intersection in the lane closest to the center line. Enter the intersection itself with your vehicle still positioned to the right of the center line. If it is possible, turn your vehicle in an arc with an apex to the right of the center of the intersection. Enter the first available lane for your direction of traffic, with your vehicle positioned to the right of the center line of that road before you leave the intersection.

If multiple lanes are allowed to turn left, exit from and enter into the corresponding lanes on either side of the intersection in the manner outlined already. Of course, it may not be possible to remain to the left of the center of the intersection depending on the lane that you are in. Also, while it may not be illegal to change lanes in an intersection, a defensive driver will not do so.

Using Your Rear View Mirrors

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, change is the chant that we all know to follow for a successful lane change. We also use our rearview mirrors to give us a better view than our eyes alone when we are backing up. Is this all that mirrors are used for and are these the only times that we use them?

Most of us do not give the rear view mirrors the attention that they deserve. A defensive driver will scan ahead to see what they are approaching, to the sides to see what is around them, to the rear to see what is behind and finally check the instrument panel to monitor their speed and vehicle condition. This cycle repeats every five to eight seconds, so their mirrors do get a regular workout.

The rearview mirror must be consulted before you put your foot on the brake. This may be the only way to decide if you will be hit from the rear if you slow or stop. Being aware of vehicles following you too closely or overtaking you too quickly may make you change your mind about braking or show you that you need to take evasive action.

One last thought concerns moving back into the lane after passing an overtaken vehicle. You should not do this until you can see all of the vehicle you have passed in your rear view mirror. Failing to do this will put the overtaken driver in the position of unintentionally tailgating you.

Setting Credible Speed Limits

Without doubt, the laws that drivers fail to follow the most often must regard the speed limit. Everyone has a justification for doing so. They range from being in a hurry, which is selfish, to the limit is set too low which is either a reasonable observation or a result of failing to take all factors into consideration.

In the past, speeds were set according to engineering design standards. This was often varied by the 85th percentile rule. The logic behind this was that the limit was most likely to be followed if it was set at what the majority of drivers chose.

More recently, collision data was introduced to the equation. A higher incidence of collisions called for a reduction in the speed limit. This will likely be supplanted by tending toward speeds that will mean road users will survive and injury will be minimized if a collision does occur.

What does the future hold? Perhaps we will factor in the production of greenhouse gases. Fuel consumption rises rapidly with speed and this is directly related to what comes out of the tailpipe.

Obviously, setting a credible speed limit that drivers will accept and follow is a difficult task. However, if it is accomplished there will be a high degree of voluntary compliance and perhaps a safer driving environment.

Over Wattage Headlight Bulbs

Research articles : 

Last week's column on overdriving low beam headlights resulted in some interesting comments. Chief among them was the thought that this wasn't a problem because the driver had installed high wattage bulbs and now had more light to see with. Do you suppose that these drivers don't know this is a bad practice or just don't care about themselves and others who use the highway?

In general, low beam headlight bulbs use in the neighbourhood of 50 watts of electrical power. The lens assemblies, switches and wiring are designed with this in mind. If you purchase and install "off highway" higher wattage bulbs you are not doing yourself or others a favour.

Glare is the main worry when this has been done. The lenses will tend to scatter some of the extra light which bothers oncoming drivers. If it is foggy, snowing or raining, the light will backscatter from these conditions and interfere with the driver's ability to see as well.

The extra current demanded by these lamps will result in heat generation within the electrical components and the headlight lens assemblies. Premature wear, melting of plastic parts and the possibly an electrical fire could be the result. Do you still think that this is an acceptable solution to the possibility of over-driving your low beam headlights?

Overdriving Low Beam Headlights

Have you ever given any thought to how far you can see at night as you are driving along down the highway? High beam headlights seem to overpower the dark, but there are a lot of situations where we are limited to using just the low beams. I was required to calculate the safe speed using only low beam headlights at a seminar and I was surprised at the result.

Most drivers can see a dark object at night with low beam headlamps at a distance of 24 to 25 metres. The average perception/reaction time is about a second and a half. Using these facts, the result is a speed of 38 kilometres per hour. If you travel any faster, or don't pay full attention, you will collide with the object before stopping.

Dark objects such as pedestrians and deer are commonly found on the roads we travel at night. Granted, there is other light to see by in town, but out of town approaching and passing other vehicles we are hurtling along at 80 and 90 or more, and using only the low beams. This seems to be a compelling reason to be a little more careful with our speed at night to me.

Hit & Run

Research articles : 

Failing to remain at the scene of an accident, or hit and run as it is more commonly known is without a doubt a daily occurrence in British Columbia. We all know that we are doing something seriously wrong when we hit a cyclist, pedestrian or other vehicle on the highway and leave the scene to escape civil and criminal liability. However, we're not quite so worried when the collision is a scrape or a dent in a parking lot or something else that we can convince ourselves is of a minor nature.

Ask anyone who has had to deal with their insurance company after they have suffered a hit and run collision and they will tell you how much it has cost them in time and money to make a claim and have their vehicle repaired. In some cases the frustration is so high that maybe it is a good thing the offending driver was never found! However, the victim's lot is always easier if the offending driver remains and takes responsibility for their actions.

Don't Drive Over a Fire Hose

Research articles : 

Imagine that you are a firefighter, hose in hand, approaching the flames inside a burning building. You open the nozzle on your attack line and...nothing. Someone has driven over the hose outside in the street and ruptured it causing a loss of pressure. Not only are you unable to fight the fire, you are at risk now too.

This imaginary driver is guilty of two traffic offences. The obvious one is driving over an unprotected fire hose without the permission of the fire department official in command. What you may not be aware of is that you are prohibited from driving or parking within 150 meters of fire apparatus that has stopped in answer to a fire alarm. This is also the minimum mandatory following distance that you must maintain from a fire vehicle answering an alarm.

During the initial attack at a fire scene, firefighters are focused on saving life and property. They do not have the time or the manpower to guide drivers over the fire hoses nor to watch out for you as you drive through their scene. The law makes it simple for drivers in these cases, don't go there, period.

These rules are aimed at insuring the safety of emergency crews and require you to either wait until police arrive for traffic direction or to find another way around the scene of the fire or fire alarm.

The Trucker's Top Five Concerns

Research articles : 

I asked a couple of transport truck drivers what bothered them about the drivers of small vehicles. We had a lively half hour discussion from which I gathered their top five concerns. Each of them could have serious consequences for everyone on the highway.

The first two concern sudden reductions in speed. The small vehicle driver will either pass the transport truck, pull in suddenly, and then slow down, or just slow suddenly without taking note of the truck behind. When you consider that a fully loaded truck with all the air brakes properly adjusted has only 50 to 65% of a small vehicles braking efficiency, you can guess how dangerous this move could be.

Passing over a double solid line when drivers are impatient with trucks forced to travel slowly is next. Often there is oncoming traffic and nowhere to go for all vehicles involved. The truckers would travel the speed limit on hills if they could, but they can’t so it would be best to wait for the proper place to pass.

On multi-laned roadway slow drivers that won’t keep to the right are frustrating. This situation isn’t limited to truck drivers either. People need to realize that even if they are traveling at the speed limit in the inside lane if someone faster approaches they must move to the outside lane.


Subscribe to Motor vehicle law column by Tim Schewe